ATHENS: World Health Organisation and Greece hold high-level event on quality health care

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) in partnership with the Greek government hosted a two day high level conference in Athens on 2-3 December called “Meeting of Minds on Quality of Care” which brought together for the first time ministers, experts, policy-makers, health professionals and civil society organisations.

Supporting patients and their health needs means that quality of care and patient safety should be at the heart of countries’ health policy agendas was the main message shared at the conference which was hosted by the newly established WHO Athens Quality of Care Office.

The two-day meeting kicked off the development of a new set of tools that countries in the WHO European Region will use as they build high-quality health services during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the recovery process.

“COVID-19 has exacerbated gaps in quality of care. The poorest and most vulnerable communities and individuals are those who suffer the most, and it is those we must work to provide for and protect,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, in his opening remarks. “It is also this health crisis that has put quality of care and patient safety at the heart of health policy agendas across our region.”

To accelerate progress on the quality of care agenda, Greek Minister of Health Thanos Plevris announced two new collaboration agreements with WHO/Europe, to begin in March 2022. The new programmes will specifically support quality of services in Greece and the quality of children and adolescent mental health services in the WHO European Region.

“The pandemic has demonstrated that money should be invested in health, not only in terms of service delivery, but also in terms of quality service delivery,” Minister Plevris said at the event opening. “This cooperation and partnership are the primary goals of our government, and Greece is ready to commit.”

Greek Alternate Minister of Health Dr Mina Gaga and Deputy Minister of Health Zoe Rapti also attended the event. Ms Rapti, who is specifically responsible for mental health, focused her opening speech on the need to improve the quality of mental health care for children and adolescents, who have been among the most affected by the pandemic.

Investment in high-quality health services is an investment in society
One of the key themes that emerged at the conference is that by investing in high-quality health care, countries are ultimately investing in the well-being of all of society. Investing in health and well-being is the catalyst for economic growth, social development and social equity.

“Health is directly tied to wealth, and to ensure that our workforce is productive and that our health services are efficient, we must guarantee that they are of adequate quality,” said Greek Minister of Development Adonis Georgiadis. “The only way towards an inclusive and forward-looking future is the maintenance of a healthy society.”

Aiming for universal health coverage means focusing on the importance of quality of care and patient safety across all levels of health systems, while taking a life-course approach that ensures healthy ageing and quality of services at all stages of life.

In his remarks at the conference Minister Georgiadis shared his appreciation for WHO/Europe’s support in this important area.

“It is indeed a great honour for the Government of Greece to work alongside WHO/Europe under the leadership of Dr Kluge to take the necessary steps to emerge from this pandemic with a system that is more resilient, better prepared and more inclusive. I believe that the expertise of the World Health Organization will bring a better future to our people,” he stated.

During his visit to Athens the Regional Director also met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. During their exchange Dr Kluge and Prime Minister Mitsotakis discussed the new collaboration agreements as well as Greece’s successful vaccination programme, including its booster programme for eligible people.

“A meeting of minds”
Organized as a hybrid event bringing together participants in the room and online, the two-day conference was an opportunity for practitioners and policy-makers to bring their expertise to the table and craft the way forward on quality of care.

Work begun during the event will result in a “Compendium of applied good practices on quality of care,” to be released in 2022. The compendium will promote innovation and guide action to provide health services, raise awareness and promote the improvement of quality of care and patient safety across the WHO European Region.

Inspired by WHO’s European Programme of Work, 2020–2025 – “United Action for Better Health in Europe”, the newly established WHO Athens Quality of Care Office will lead this work in collaboration with governments and partners across the European Region.